Angelik Appleton is more likely to knit than use a computer when she’s in school.

Appleton, 8, is a third-grade student at Three Rivers Waldorf School, where there are no textbooks and no written tests. Appleton learns at her own pace, driving her own education, as is the Waldorf philosophy.

And she likes knitting — a regular class activity for Three Rivers students.

“I’m making a hedgehog,” she said.

Waldorf schools like Three Rivers in La Crosse focus on active lessons, depending less on technology, book work and other, more passive, instruction techniques. Curriculum, school schedule and teaching style all are intended to help students engage their five senses while learning.

“The big thing is that we really try to get away from the model of more high stakes testing,” school Administrator Justin McKnight said. “All that stuff is just not in the interest of crafting a nourishing, positive environment for the student.”

Three Rivers has an early childhood center and offers K-8 education. Students typically transfer to local public or private schools when they reach high school.

The school is one of more than 160 Waldorf institutions in North America and more than 900 worldwide.

Waldorf students start kindergarten at age 4 and don’t transition to first grade until age 6 or 7.

Literacy isn’t stressed as in other early childhood programs, but students learn through poetry and song.

“It’s not teaching the children to cram together sentences,” McKnight said. “We’re really establishing a broad base.”

When Three Rivers students transition to grade school, they stay with the same teacher until they leave.

Three Rivers teacher Amy Morse has had the same group of students since she started teaching at the Waldorf school, except for last year when her class combined with the next lower grade level. Now, she teaches fifth and sixth grade.

Still, the consistency helps Morse track the growth of her students.

“You get to see them year to year,” she said. “How their development happens.”

Students start the day with two hours of block learning, focused on a specific subject in a core learning area such as math or reading. Each subject or unit lasts for a few weeks, ending with a final project.

Instead of teaching from a textbook, students make their own books on a blank pamphlet of paper.

There are no letter grades — just an extensive written assessment from the teacher at the end of the year about each student’s performance.

All students also split time between language lessons and Waldorf’s “hand work” classes, where students work with natural fabrics such as wool, and learn to knit and sew.

Lessons combine creativity and productivity, hand work teacher Michelle Kennedy said. Students make clothing and pillowcases, and by eighth grade can opt to donate their work to people in need.

“The children love to make things,” Kennedy said. “They understand what it takes to make something.”

Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner founded the first Waldorf school in 1919. He believed people are made up of three parts, and his brand of education focuses on developing each: “Spirit, soul and body,” according to the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.

Spirituality plays a role at Three Rivers, but McKnight is careful to distinguish Waldorf schools from private religious schools.

Steiner’s ideas serve as an educational model for teachers, but they aren’t taught in the classroom, McKnight said.

“We’re really trying to teach the children reverence for things,” McKnight said.


(5) comments


Formal education is necessary for the social growth and character building of a person. australian essay service plays an important role in the upbringing of a human being and lets him be an improved human being.


Nice article. Waldorf students are usually successful, engaged, motivated, creative life-long learners (and often vaccinated - good grief!) Every week a new study confirms the benefits of the types of learning that goes in on a Waldorf school - oral and aural education, learning foreign languages early, learning about the history and cultures of the world's people, making things rather than consuming them, alternating active and passive learning, using imagination and much more. Maybe better, teachers are able to find the methods and particular lessons that suit and will benefit the individual children in their classes and are not forced to stuff state approved generic facts into the next pallet of state exam widgets. I'll take Waldorf any day.

Here comes the boom

I hope that knitting comes in handy while waiting in line for welfare! Come on really...........


Doing fine motor work like knitting builds intelligence, and seeing a project through - like that hedgehog the student mentioned - takes persistence and willpower. If you read the article you see that it's not just handwork, but all subjects that pursue deeper learning based on the student working more actively.

Waldorf educators and parents are hardly the only ones who have divested their children from worksheets and multiple choice tests in favor of something more comprehensive. If we're moving toward a future where it increasingly takes intelligence, creativity, willpower to succeed, you don't need to worry about these students ending up on welfare. You might want to look more at the conventional school environment where children are rewarded for learning the rules of the game, playing that game and get out with minimum effort, whether or not they have been fully challenged or their potential really reached.


Let's hope they get themselves vaccinated against the usual childhood infections... Waldorf schools are notorious in having high numbers of kids whose parents have refused vaccines.

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